MFA Dissertation (A+)

I would like to start this article with a tribute to Raph Koster the genius, who managed to bridge the gap between happiness and successful game design based on empirical research. My MFA thesis awarded with A+ accompanies “Shakespeare’s Hunt” the iPad game for The Globe Theatre and its focus was mainly research on games and game design. I have to admit I found the subject fascinating.

Below is the chapter that refers to game design cover the following subjects:

  1. Defining games
  2. Endorphins, pattern recognition and learning
  3. Game mechanics (motivators and demotivators).

The taste left in my mouth from all that experience of learning about games and how deep they go into how we, humans, function is summarised in the epilogue of my thesis below:

Game design studies refer to research on positive psychology and in practical terms on ways to trigger human happiness. As a subject of research, it may not be included in my future work (i.e. augmented reality for cultural heritage), however the knowledge I gained from working on this theme is invaluable. Firstly, I personally found stunning the fact that it is simple, at the level that it can be documented, to make one, anyone, feel happy. It was also of my surprise to realise that regardless of personal taste and things people like or dislike, up to a point we are all the same; we think, act and react in the same way much more often than one would reckon. Researching game design was of great benefit for myself, as I came to understand better the behaviour of people around me and more importantly my own behaviour as well. The knowledge gained from this year’s research, will follow me for all my life and it already does, as now every time I reactively smile I immediately try to see the pattern that made me do that; like I am playing a game of my own.

Shakespeare’s Hunt (Video)

Shakespeare’s Hunt is a pilot of an alternate reality (also known as treasure hunt) iPad game for the exhibition of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I worked on the project as a partner of Metavore London, developing the software, designing the interface and contributing to its game design aspect. My contribution to this project is also my thesis for the second year of my MFA studies.

In the beginning of the last academic year I had as a personal goal, for my final project to work closely with a cultural institution and develop a piece of work that would serve a purpose set by the professionals who work there. Given that last year my prototype applications were designed to fulfil needs that I had only come across through my research, I got the feedback that some assumptions of mine don’t stand for the majority of the cultural heritage institutions. In particular, during a conference earlier in the year I had the chance to discuss with Nancy Proctor, head of mobile strategy for the Smithsonian Institution,  and commenting on my work, she made the point that some of the material ARS:CI is aiming to take advantage of, can be provided only by a small minority of museums that can afford it e.g. under-drawings of paintings, or 3D reconstructions of damaged sculptures.

For Shakespeare’s Hunt we had the chance to work closely with people from Shakespeare’s Globe, hence it was a great pleasure for me to have their insight and be influenced during the design phase of the project by the objectives that the Globe itself follows when it comes to matters such as the use of new technologies in exhibition spaces and education.

For my studies I have been writing a document about this project, which I am planning to circulate to a few conferences on the topic and hopefully get it published. I am still working on it, however the synopsis as of today is the following:

Museums’ missions are stated as providing education through the exhibition and interpretation of their collections [1] and for the vast majority of cultural heritage institutions the interpretative material is static, constituted by long pieces of textual or audio information. According to Georgina Goodlander, Interpretive Programs Manager for the Smithsonian Art Museum “The twenty-first-century audience has an increasingly short attention span, extremely high expectations when it comes to finding and engaging with information, the ability to communicate with friends and strangers quickly and on multiple platforms, and a very open approach to learning”. [2] This paper argues that as audiences evolve, so should exhibition spaces and Shakespeare’s Hunt is an attempt to exploit the benefits emerging technologies have to offer and provide an experience designed according to the audience of our era as described by Goodlander above.